Max Kellerman seems to be settling quite nicely into his new role as Stephen A. Smith’s counterpart on ESPN’s “First Take.” The man who replaced hot-take machine Skip Bayless brought some volcanic magma of his own to the show Thursday, claiming that, someday very soon, Tom Brady will be “a bum.”
The setup was a clip of Patriots Coach Bill Belichick discussing his team’s quarterback situation, with Jimmy Garappolo set to start the first four games in Brady’s Deflategate-suspension absence. Host Molly Qerim then threw out the debate topic: “How much longer does Brady have?”
“I want to make this very clear, especially for Patriots and Brady fans,” Kellerman replied, fielding the question first. “Let me start by saying: I think Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback who ever lived, okay?”
Kellerman proceeded to elaborate on that qualification, all the better to draw things out until the inevitable “but.” That arrived in this manner:
“Tom Brady is just about done. It could be the next game he plays, it could be a year from now, but he is going to fall off a cliff.
“Tom Brady is going to be a bum in short order.”
That had Smith theatrically interrupting his partner, just to be sure he heard what he thought he heard. Kellerman brought up the names of other aging superstar athletes, including Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant, whose performances fell off sharply in recent years and caused them to retire.
After pointing out that Brady will turn 39 next week, an age at which very few NFL quarterbacks have even played at an average level, Kellerman said, “Will it be this year? Not necessarily. I can see Brady, if he gets through the year without an injury, putting up big numbers.
“But then it’ll be next,” he continued. “He’ll be terrible by the middle of next season.”
Kellerman predicted that Brady would get increasingly dinged-up, or perhaps suffer “one catastrophic injury,” effectively ending his career as a top quarterback “either this year or next.”
Kellerman’s scorching take had Smith exclaiming, “I can’t believe what I just heard!” and noting that he thought he “was done with stuff like this” following the departure of Bayless to Fox Sports. Calling Kellerman’s comments “blasphemy,” Smith said of Brady, “This dude is on another level,” dismissing the comparison of the Patriots quarterback to late-career Manning.
In his first week on “First Take,” Kellerman has bolted out of the gates. In his debut Monday, he called out the NFL for its hypocrisy in punishing players for marijuana use while raking in revenue from beer companies.
“Why is the NFL testing for marijuana at all? Why?” Kellerman asked. “That’s a choice they’re making. This is a league that is in bed with companies that peddle alcohol. They’re sponsored, they take money from companies that say, ‘Here, drink this.’ In any objective study ever done, the effects of alcohol, certainly, the societal effects, are objectively always worse than marijuana. If the threshold is alcohol, why is the NFL choosing to test for marijuana?”
In both cases, Kellerman is making a fair amount of sense, but it’s likely that Patriots fans are joining Smith in their disbelief that Brady could have the word “bum” attached to him, even in a predictive sense. Here is Thursday’s exchange (warning: lots of shouting by Smith).